Love Anthony by Lisa Genova
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I have read Lisa Genova's other books Still Alice and Left Neglected. Still Alice was a startling, saddening but wonderful read about a woman struggling with her diagnosis of Early Onset Alzheimer’s. Considering that Genova has a background in neuroscience, it is not surprising that she chose her second book Left Neglected to be about another neurological syndrome, left neglect.
I was excited to read Love Anthony, hoping it would be similar in vein to her other novels. Still Alice and Left Neglected gave me insight into Alzeimers and Left Neglect Syndrome without becoming clinical or cold. Each of her character's struggles with their future and prognosis seemed so real and the stories were easy to become engrossed in.
When I picked up Love Anthony, I was very intrigued and interesting in reading a novel about autism; I have been aware of autism in our society, but have not researched it deeply. I knew that autism has a huge range, being a spectrum and different with each child diagnosed. Some children have a milder form of autism and can be touched and held. Some children cannot be touched, cannot maintain eye contact and cannot talk.
Considering that I am not a parent nor do I have an autistic kid, I find it difficult to fairly review this book. Parents who have an autistic child who cannot speak to them would obvously be far more moved by this novel than I was. However, I did find that Genova's style of writing and plot was much lower in quality than her previous novels.
One of the main reasons why I think this novel wasn't AS good was the fact that Genova has based her previous novels on people suffering with neurological disorders, and those suffering have always been the protagonists. In this novel however, our protagonists are two women who are both connected through a child with autism. The back of novel describes how these women are drawn together over a tragedy.
These two women, Beth and Oliva (Anthony's mom) have a brief meeting on a beach years ago. Each then continue on with their lives. Olivia struggles with Anthony's autism and learning to accept him, something that we discover through journal entries she rereads throughout the novel. Beth in the mean time has her own personal tragedy: discovering that her husband has cheated on her.
Strange circumstances cause both these women to run into each other. Beth is looking for inspiration and decides to turn back to writing after shutting that part of her away for so many years in order to be a good mother and wife. She remembers a little boy she saw on the beach years before, with deep brown eyes, and she decides to base her novel on that tiny moment. She writes about a young boy with autism, from his point of view.
I suppose that Anthony's point of view was the most clinical thing about this novel. Genova attempts to make the reader understand what life is like for an autistic child. How she drew these conclusions, I am not sure, nor am I questioning their validity. Anthony's narration is probably the most moving aspect of the entire novel.
In the mean time, Beth continues to grapple with her future and whether she should accept her husband's apologies and return to him. Olivia is living an isolated world. She becomes a photographer for the families who want beach photos on the island of Nantucket--where both women live. Coincidentally, Beth hires Olivia to photograph her girls and ends up finding out that Oliva was an editor years ago. It's easy to see where this all leads: she begs Olivia to edit a novel she's writing and Oliva reluctantly agrees.
This is where things get weird. Oliva eventually gets the draft from Beth, reads it, and rushes over to Beth's house in a tizzy. She insists that the voice of the novel is actually the voice of her son Anthony. Beth doesn't believe it at first, Olivia tries to convince her, Beth insists her book is done, Olivia disagrees and wants her to listen to Anthony's voice once more to get the real ending.
Then it gets into channelling spirits of people who has passed on. Genova never implicitly takes a stand on where this voice is coming from. She never says it's a ghost, or Anthony's spirit, or Beth's slightly schizophrenic musings. We never have any conclusive answer to WHERE Beth is drawing these ideas and thoughts from, the ideas of an autistic child that are (apparently) very accurate.
I suppose that if one had an autistic child, reading the narration of Anthony's would be very moving. I applaud parents who cope with autism on a daily basis as I doubt I would have the patience they possess. However, that doesn't change the fact that this book limped along until the last sentence.
Beth and Olivia are seen as these women who are coping through huge issues, yet we barely see any true soul searching. Genova scratches the surfaces of their characters, leaving us with more questions and wondering who these two women truly are. The sidekick friends of Beth are suitably quirky and one background character seems to possess more originality and dimension than Beth does. Beth is a sad sad lady and a writer. There you have it.
I won't lie, the book is an easy read. I read it in probably four hours. If you're looking for a quick read, you will enjoy this novel. However, I did not find it as interesting or moving as her other books. Many of the expressions she used sounded cliched and boring. This novel was fluffy.
Still, if that's what you're looking for, I have no doubt you'll enjoy it. I based my review of the novel on my past experience with Genova's writing and I find it very lacking; therefore, I gave the novel two stars -- it was OKAY. I did like it, I wouldn't read it again, but it was okay.
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